The voters of Australia don’t always agree with the immigration policies of the party they support,
Overall, voters are approximately evenly split on the question of how many immigrants Australia should accept — about one-third say more, one-third say fewer and another third say the intake is about right where it is now.
And while the political parties are locked into their positions on whether asylum seeker boats should be turned back, voters remain divided on the issue.
One Nation in step with its voters on immigration cuts
More than 90 per cent of One Nation voters want to see immigration numbers cut, in line with the party’s policy to bring the current annual intake of 160,000 migrants down to 20th-century levels of 70,000.
Greens voters are the most likely to support higher immigration, whereas the party says the current rate is appropriate.
Numerous Labor and Coalition voters also differ from parts of the party platforms on immigration.
Left-leaning voters want more immigrants and right-leaning want fewer
Proportion of voter responses to the statement: “How many immigrants should Australia admit?”
The immigration data also found:
- More women (39 per cent) than men (27 per cent) want to increase immigration.
- The highest levels of support for lifting immigration rates were in the inner-metropolitan areas of our capital cities.
- The proportion of voters who said they would like to see more immigrants reached approximately 50 per cent in the Labor-held Melbourne electorates of Cooper and Wills, and the Greens-held seat of Melbourne.
- At the other end of the scale, less than 25 per cent of voters in the Liberal National Party-held rural Queensland electorates of Hinkler, Flynn and Maranoa wanted to see immigrant numbers increase.
Turning back boats remains divisive
Australians’ views on whether boats carrying asylum seekers should be turned back have barely shifted since it was a top-order issue in the 2013 election.
Nearly equal numbers of voters support turnbacks (46 per cent) as oppose them (42 per cent) — an almost identical result to 2013, after a slight uptick in support for turnbacks in 2016.
La Trobe University associate professor Andrea Carson, a member of the Vote Compass advisory panel, says the data shows when it comes to asylum seekers, Australians are polarised and have largely made up their minds.
“What we don’t know compared to 2013 is how salient the issue is,” she said. “In 2013, it was used a lot in Liberal messaging, it was part of Tony Abbott’s six points for the electorate.”
She said immigration and asylum seekers were rated as important issues in 2013.
“We’re not seeing that in this campaign, except with One Nation voters. When we asked the most important issue, it was One Nation voters who rated [immigration] as most important,” she said.
“But as in 2013, this is an issue that creates pressure for Labor because they are evenly distributed across the responses.”
The major parties are in lockstep on asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat — both the Coalition and Labor policy is for boats to be turned back to their destination when it is safe to do so.
Voters support immigrants’ cultural values
Vote Compass found strong support for the view that all immigrants can retain their cultural values without being less Australian — a statement that gained the backing of 70 per cent of voters overall.
One Nation voters were the biggest exception, with about 70 per cent of them disagreeing. One Nation policy is to assess immigrants, including those coming to Australia under the humanitarian program, on whether they are likely to assimilate.
Dr Carson says the data shows most electorates in Australia are accepting of immigrants’ cultural values.
“Where we see this emphasis change is in particular electorates, similar to the ones less supportive of migration,” she said.
Indeed, the geographic distribution on this question mirrored that of support for a higher immigration intake overall:
- More than 80 per cent of voters in Labor-held Cooper and Wills, and Greens-held Melbourne agree that keeping cultural values does not make immigrants less Australian.
- The LNP-held Queensland seats of Hinkler, Maranoa and Flynn had the lowest support of all electorates, but even there more than 50 per cent agree immigrants who retain their cultural values are no less Australian.
One Nation voters think immigrants’ cultural values and being more Australian don’t mix
Proportion of voter responses to the statement: “All immigrants can retain their cultural values without being any less Australian”.